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For a Rocketship and a Battleship All Rolled into One: “The Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum”

I have been meaning to visit The Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum for well over a year now. But sadly it has not been my fault. I was literally a week from going when New York City and the tri-state area were hit by Hurricane Sandy in the fall of 2012. Sandy was quite a minx and did quite a lot of damage. There are still large portions of lower Manhattan that are without power and/or have not been rebuilt. Some will never come back. Perhaps what I am saddest about is The South Street Seaport Museum. I had recently been there to see the Titanic exhibit in May 2012 ( and 
had enjoyed it so. Hopefully if the museum cannot reopen many of the exhibits that can be saved will relocate to the Museum of The City of New York.

Thus I was further disheartened once the dust had settled and the water retreated, and I realized my trip to the Intrepid was canceled. I was sadder still when I found out how much damage had been done and where the main problems laid. As the Intrepid is in the Hudson River it had naturally taken quite a beating. Their new exhibit: Enterprise Space Shuttle Pavilion was wrecked and it would not reopen until 2013! Now I was angry!

After much hard work the main exhibit of The Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum reopened eight weeks after the storm on December 21, 2012. For 2012, they had an impressive one million visitors despite their closure and my absence. However, I did not want to go without the Space Shuttle open because I knew that was one of the many reasons I would be attending. For this I would have to wait many more months.

Finally on July 9, 2013 the Enterprise Space Shuttle Pavilion reopened and the museum was whole once again. Actually there are a few minor shops that sold food and gifts that have been relocated to another spot on the site as they are still being worked on. But for the most part visitors can now see all they came to see and enjoy the beauty and the history.

It is at this time I should tell you the reason I so badly wanted to visit the Intrepid. But I should probably tell you first that this was not my first time at the Intrepid. I had been here once before with my family when I was about fourteen or fifteen. Of course at that age I didn’t care the way I did now but I remember walking on the flight deck and seeing the retired planes and even walking through the inside and seeing all the relics from different missions and wars, although I couldn’t recite them to you off the top of my head. I would show you the picture we had taken in front by the official souvenir taker that day but I would not do that to my family. I of course always looked this stunning.

Now that I am older, and appreciate history more I wanted to go back. I pass it all the time on the West Side Highway and I know that my fancy Cannon Rebel camera would love it there. We make a great pair. Yes my camera and I have good times together and create beautiful images. I was anxious to see how I could move around that space and what I would be motivated to photograph. Finally a place where my camera and its flash were welcome.  My Christmas miracle came early this year.

As for the infamous Space Shuttle, this will be the last time I use this official phrase. Although I have been mocked for saying this, to me it is a rocketship plain and simple. Technically it went into the atmosphere and not outer space but this isn’t a pop quiz. If I was on The Big Bang Theory perhaps I would know better. But it is my favorite phrase to use and I plan on typing it as much as possible right now.  I gather from what I hear that the rocketship is where the fire is that blasts the space shuttle into the air but that’s where I start to nod off. Either way I figure I am in the right general area.

I had been planning this nice day out with my cousin for months and the when the day we settled on arrives, it becomes the coldest day in New York City of the year. No, seriously. The wind was so aggressive I could have sworn I blew past Chicago. I was light as a feather despite my purse and camera around my neck easily adding twenty pounds to my frame. The three blocks I walked from my car to get to the entrance were exhausting. I felt like I conquered a demon. Needless to say it also felt like it was ten degrees below zero which the wind was not helping. But luckily the weather and wind were my only complaints on this outing and they weren’t very strong complaints as you are mostly inside for this visit.

The first thing we did was to venture on to The Growler which is the only American operated strategic missile open to the public. This submarine became part of this museum site in 1989. The Intrepid itself is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary.

Where do I begin? I knew this wasn’t going to be fun when I had to crawl through a submarine like hole to get to the souvenir photo that they make you take in the beginning and me and my camera got stuck. I began to sweat and have a panic attack. The man working there proceeds to tell me there will be about six of these in the submarine and I already knew it would be a tight fit from an experience I had in Mystic, Connecticut many years ago and simple common sense. This ought to be interesting I thought to myself.

My cousin had brought a friend so we worked out a system: she went first and took my camera, and then I pushed/struggled through with the help of my cousin who came in last. After many tight fits amazingly I survived and tried to appreciate how anyone could live on these things for months at a time, but it’s incomprehensible. It was so fascinating to see how many people slept on those tiny bunk beds piled on top of each other, the tiny kitchen, the control room, and the room that had a bed and the torpedo it in too.

Next we walked across the deck onto the Intrepid and went all the way to the top. It was such a great spot to take in the city and also the collection of planes they have there. There are a number of impressive sites the most memorable are the Grumman Intruder, Lockheed Blackbird, as well as the Intrepid’s own recovery plane and those that have flown in Vietnam and World War II.

From here we walked towards my favorite: the Enterprise.

We actually went here directly from the first floor of the Intrepid because this exhibit entrance is behind the planes you will see. It is the easiest way to go about it. Then you can take the elevators down to the second and ultimately the third and final floor of the Intrepid to complete your visit.

When you enter from the flight deck, you walk into a hall where there are signs displaying famous quotes from NASA that you are hearing above. It is incredible. My favorite was:”Houston is a go for takeoff”.  From there you are in the exhibit and are surrounding by the history, story, and even pop culture all to do with the Enterprise.

One of the things I learned was that it was originally going to be called Constitution in honor of the bicentennial and scheduled to be unveiled on that anniversary. However, with the help of over four hundred thousand Star Trek fans and their pleas to President Ford the name was changed to Enterprise for their fictional starship. This is interesting and scary now that I think of it.

Among the other cool things to see here is the Russian orbit module that flew in space. It slept three people and I can’t even imagine fitting my purse in there.

On March 13, 2013 Enterprise was the first space shuttle to be listed on the National Register of Historical Places. A favorite list of mine no doubt.

Since the Enterprise is so tall they had a platform you could climb up to for taking photos and for a panoramic view. I stayed there longer than most. It was breathtaking. I was staring at something most people never get to see (you know if you don’t count those one million from last year). Even still it felt special. Imagine how much more special it feels to be part of the club that works with them.

After taking my many photographs and stopping to sit on a bench and stare at my rocketship it was time to move on and inside to the second floor of the Intrepid. Side note- this museum has benches in every location where you can sit, get organized, and take it all it. I love that!

The second floor does not look like it has a massive amount of history documented within its walls but boy does it ever.  I walked in and made a right turn and felt like I would never hit the end. This is where those benches come in handy. One of the highlights are the film they show telling the story of the Intrepid. Towards the end when they say you are standing on a spot where so many lost their lives it is utterly chilling. You almost can’t believe you are standing inside that enormous ship you walked towards in the morning.

This is really the soup to nuts portion of the self guided tour. You learn about the inventions and developments aboard the ship as well as in our country in that time, from World War II and on.

The setup is really convenient and I cannot express how friendly and informed all of the staff members were. No matter where I was or what question or comment I had, the staff was amazing, even those who were working and freezing outside. That is not something you see very often and I was very impressed. That goes along way believe me.

On the third floor there isn’t too much to see. There is the mess hall showing what it looked like originally and then after the restoration. On the other side of this floor is an Au Bon Pain Café. It is a good place to stop to get a drink, a snack, a small lunch, or catch up with a cousin after exploring such a vast vessel and rocketship.

For a good deal:

Check twitter and/or and look under New York Attractions in the middle of the page. 

When you get your tickets make sure they include the Space Shuttle Pavilion if that is something you want to see. Also guided tours are under a different category. The Growler automatically comes with the Intrepid standard ticket.

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